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What Are Black-Eyed Peas?
Black-eyed peas (Vigna unguiculata), also known as cowpeas or southern peas, are legumes native to West Africa that thrive in hot climates. The most popular variety of black-eyed pea is cream-colored with a black "eye" at the hilum (the place where the pea attaches to its pod). If you grow your own black-eyed peas, you can steam or sauté the long green pods like you would green beans.
How to Cook Black-Eyed Peas
Unlike other dried beans, black-eyed peas cook fast on the stovetop (about 30 minutes in a large pot of boiling water). If you're used to soaking your beans and cooking them for hours on the stovetop or in a slow cooker, you'll be surprised by how quickly black-eyed peas turn to mush—which is actually how they're typically eaten in West Africa.
Many recipes for stewed black-eyed peas use ham hocks, ham bones, or chicken stock to infuse the beans with savory, meaty flavor. It's also easy to make meatless or vegan black-eyed peas in vegetable broth by building a base of flavor using vegetables such as onion and diced tomato and spices like bay leaves and black pepper.
7 Ways to Serve Black-Eyed Peas
Black-eyed peas are a versatile legume and a Southern staple. There are many ways to serve them, including:
- Hoppin' John is a South Carolina Lowcountry dish made from black-eyed peas cooked with rice and aromatics such as bell pepper, tomato, and garlic cloves. Hoppin' John is traditionally made for New Year's Day and served with cornbread and collard greens.
- Black-eyed pea salad is a chilled alternative to stewed black-eyed peas. Add raw red bell pepper, chopped fresh herbs, and a simple homemade vinaigrette to the cooked and cold beans.
- Texas caviar is a black-eyed pea-based salsa served with corn chips.
- Akara are West African fritters made with black-eyed peas (known as akkra in the Caribbean and acarajé in Brazil).
- Louvi is a dish from the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. It is made with black-eyed peas and Swiss chard.
- Che dau trang is a sweet Vietnamese sticky rice pudding made with black-eyed peas and coconut milk.
- Vegan burgers are easy to make with black-eyed peas and a grain such as millet or quinoa.
There are many ways to cook black-eyed peas, but even the simplest stewed black-eyed peas make for a flavorful entree. Serve black-eyed peas over rice, with a side of cornbread, or alongside sautéed greens like collard greens, kale, Swiss chard, or turnip greens.
Stewed Black-Eyed Peas Recipe
Prep Time20 min
Total Time1 hr 30 min
Cook Time1 hr 10 min
- 1 cup dried black-eyed peas
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 cup bacon, chopped (optional)
- ½ cup olive oil (if not using bacon)
- 1 small yellow onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup diced tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- Pinch red pepper, such as cayenne (optional)
- ½ cup finely chopped fresh parsley
- Rinse black-eyed peas in cold water. Combine peas with 4 cups water and a bay leaf in a large pot over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until just tender, about 30–50 minutes. Drain peas in a colander or fine-mesh strainer under cold running water.
- Meanwhile, place bacon in a cold cast-iron skillet. Turn the heat to medium and cook until the bacon fat has mostly rendered out, about 5 minutes. If not using bacon, heat olive oil in skillet until shimmering. Add onion and cook until translucent, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, tomatoes, salt, and paprika and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes have softened and flavors have melded, about 15-20 minutes.
- Reduce the heat to low and add the cooked black-eyed peas. Cook 10 minutes longer, then taste and add salt if needed. Add a pinch of red pepper if desired, or serve with hot sauce. Remove from the heat and stir in parsley. Serve warm.
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